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GOP gains momentum on tax cuts

GOP gains momentum on tax cuts
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans have significant momentum ahead of a possible vote this week on tax legislation following a meeting of their caucus with President Trump.

Trump has made clear he’s willing to deal with senators on their individual demands, and his offerings paid quick dividends Tuesday.

Within an hour of the Trump meeting, the Senate Budget Committee voted to advance the tax bill on a party-line vote.

Two Republicans who just a day prior had threatened to vote against the measure, Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator seeking information on FBI dealings with Bruce Ohr, former DOJ lawyer Election Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms Senate Homeland chair vents Mueller probe is preventing panel from receiving oversight answers MORE (Wis.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCorker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing GOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Poll: GOP's Blackburn holds slim lead in Tennessee Senate race MORE (Tenn.), voted in favor of it.

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Separately, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSusan Collins and the mob mentality Graham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh St. Lawrence alumni, faculty want honorary degree for Collins revoked MORE (Maine), long seen as the Republican most likely to vote against the tax bill, suggested that she could be won over after Trump voiced support for two bills, including a measure sponsored by her, that are meant to stabilize ObamaCare’s insurance markets.

Passage of those measures could persuade Collins, who is worried the tax bill’s inclusion of language eliminating ObamaCare’s insurance mandate could raise premiums.

“[Trump] said that he understood the need to have something to offset the premium increases and appeared very open” to signing the two bills into law, she said after a separate meeting with Trump.

Collins said her optimism on the bill is growing because of the feedback she’s received about her concerns on health care and other issues.

“I believe that a lot of my concerns, it appears, are going to be addressed and that I’m going to be given the opportunity to offer amendments on the Senate floor on these areas,” she said after the lunch. 

Collins also made it clear that GOP leaders and members of the Senate Finance Committee are focused on winning her over.

“I think they’re eager to help me get to yes,” a smiling Collins told reporters.

The positive signals bode well for GOP hopes to pass the bill on the Senate floor by the end of the week.

“I think it’s going to pass,” said Trump, who called the meeting “outstanding.”

Republicans can afford just two defections if all Democrats vote against the bill, but it appeared Tuesday they were nearing their goal.

Corker and other deficit hawks — such as Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOn The Money: Treasury official charged with leaking info on ex-Trump advisers | Trump to seek 5 percent budget cut from Cabinet members | Mnuchin to decide by Thursday on attending Saudi conference Mnuchin to decide by Thursday whether to attend Saudi conference GOP senator: Not 'appropriate' for Mnuchin to go to Saudi conference MORE (R-Ariz.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel GOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters The Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh, Ford saga approaches bitter end MORE (R-Okla.) — have been concerned that the bill could blow a hole in the deficit. They have been pushing for the bill to include a “backstop” in the event that the tax cuts don’t generate as much economic growth as predicted by Republicans.

Corker on Tuesday said he and leadership have an “outline of an agreement” on a trigger provision that could allow tax rates to rise if budget projections are missed.

“I think we’ve got a commitment that puts us in a pretty good place,” he told reporters.

Johnson, along with Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTrump administration could use military bases to export coal, gas McConnell: No one is going to beat Murkowski in Alaska Murkowski brushes off GOP backlash: 'I'm good with' Kavanaugh vote MORE (R-Mont.), has expressed concerns that the bill provides more of a benefit to corporations than pass-through businesses, which are taxed through the individual code. On Monday, Johnson threatened to vote against the bill in the Budget Committee if a fix wasn’t reached before the vote.

The Wisconsin Republican ended up voting for the bill in committee, telling reporters shortly before the vote that he’s seeing progress.

Daines also was confidant that concerns on pass-through businesses would be dealt with.

“I think we made a lot of progress today and I’m optimistic that we’re going to see a good outcome there,” he said in an interview with Fox Business Network.

Collins also said she received positive feedback about including a property tax deduction of up to $10,000 in the bill. The House tax bill includes such a property tax deduction but the Senate bill does not.

“That’s a really important provision for a lot of middle-income families,” she said.

Collins said Trump would support her amendment on the property tax deduction.

Despite the progress, Republicans still have more work to do before the bill passes the Senate. They have to address lawmakers’ concerns without having the bill’s cost exceed $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

“It’s a challenging exercise,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials ratchet up fight over drug pricing | McConnell says Republicans could try again on ObamaCare repeal | Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel MORE (R-Ky.) said. “Think of sitting there with a Rubik’s Cube, trying to get to 50. We do have a few members who have concerns, and we’re trying to address them. And we know we will not be able to go forward until we’re able to get 50 people satisfied and that’s what we’re working on.”

At least one manager’s amendment is expected to be offered by GOP leaders, and individual lawmakers are also expected to offer their own amendments on the floor.

Once Senate Republicans pass their bill, they still have to reconcile it with the measure the House passed earlier this month.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Some ObamaCare premiums to decrease next year | Sanders hits back at Trump over 'Medicare for all' | Panel to investigate rising maternal mortality rates House committee to investigate rising maternal mortality rates How the Trump tax law passed: The final stretch MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday maintained that lawmakers would resolve the differences between the two bills in a conference committee, rather than the House taking up a Senate-passed bill. Among the bills’ differences is that the House bill has four individual tax brackets while the Senate bill has seven.

“Certainly there is a lot of common ground here,” he said. “But the chambers have taken different approaches in areas such as pass-throughs, on the individual rate brackets, for example, in deductions issues. And we certainly have a lot of work together with the Senate to do on the international side of this. And so for as much common ground as we have, there are some areas where we’re taking different approaches. That will be worked out — can only be worked out — in a conference committee.”

Nathaniel Weixel, Jordain Carney and Cristina Marcos contributed.